This week’s poem tells us the secret story of a hermit, his “feral intelligence” uncovered only after his death.

Jim Glenn Thatcher’s book “Lesser Eternities” was published by Deerbrook Editions in 2017 and was a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. His work has won awards from New Millennium Writings, and he currently teaches at Southern Maine Community College.

This column is accepting poem submissions during the month of August. For more information, please visit mainewriters.org/programs/deep-water.

Understory

By Jim Glenn Thatcher

The old man had always been a mystery,

living out there on that abandoned logging road

in those miles of woods between the Parsonsfields.

Months would go by without anyone seeing him;

no one even noticed when he first went missing.

Gone for all of seven seasons before a hunter found him—

not in those open pine woods where they’d sometimes

seen him ranging, but tangled in brush beneath the understory

less than a hundred yards behind his shack.

Stripped down to rags on a skeleton, bedded

in spears of burdock; ribs twined with creeper;

his skull filled now with the strangeness of other life,

the sun tracking its daily course of shadow and light

along the brow of the caves where his eyes had been.

 

No one knew of anyone to claim him.

When they went in to clean out his place,

not expecting much—a rotting cot,

a very old sleeping bag, a few utensils, one tin cup—

it was the notebooks that surprised them:

Piles upon piles of old notebooks, all of them full—

“Crawling with words,” someone said. A library of wildness—

Journal entries written by the forest itself;

the woods he lived in become the woods living in him.

Feral intelligence hedging off into its hinterlands—

stories of stones, autobiographies of trees—a runic scrawl

scratching itself into sand, leaf, fur, feather, claw.

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